Salesforce cofounder and CEO Marc Benioff discusses the CRM giant's plans for 2017 during a webcast presentation. File photo.

Published: November 27th, 2019

In conjunction with Salesforce’s annual conference, Dreamforce, last week, Bluewolf, a global consultancy and Salesforce strategic partner, released its annual report on how the best companies use Salesforce.

The State of Salesforce collected more than 190,000 data points from more than 2,100 global Salesforce customers to discover trends and opportunities for IT, marketing, sales, and service. This year, 84 per cent of contributors were in North America, 7 per cent each in EMEA and APAC, and 2 per cent in Latin America, with over half (53 per cent) in companies with 500 employees or less. The remainder were split almost evenly between companies with 500 – 4,999 employees and those over 5000.

So what’s a “best company” when it’s at home? The report puts it thusly:

The best companies understand that customer experience (CX) is a direct reflection of employee experience (EX) and redesign their workflows and operations accordingly. Salesforce is the engagement layer that connects CX and EX as an integral part of evolving business models, operations, and go-to-market strategy.

The best companies meet both employee and customer expectations with an unwavering commitment to enabling smarter, faster decision making. Counter intuitively, using artificial intelligence can deepen insights into what makes us human.

Ultimately, the best companies embrace change as an opportunity for creating market differentiation and leverage every competitive advantage Salesforce has to offer to maximize ROI.

The report notes four key overall trends that emerged:

  • Organizations are being built around Customer 360, creating unified customer profiles. Nine out of 10 IT users ranked integrating data sources as their top priority.
  • Artificial intelligence efforts are scaling up, with the goal of augmenting human decision-making. Survey says 83 per cent of businesses piloting AI will implement within the next 18 months.
  • Sellers want more mobile. The report says, “Salesforce’s strategic partnership with Apple should mean organizations prioritize giving sellers access to real-time data in front of their customers,” also noting that sellers in the research spent 73 per cent of their time in front of desktop computers, only 8 per cent on a mobile device. However, 64 per cent currently use Salesforce Mobile (89 per cent of the current users plan to expand their use of it), and half of the non-users plan to add it to their toolkits.
  • 24/7 Salesforce management moves mainstream; 67 per cent of Salesforce customers who met their target ROI for Salesforce use a consulting partner for 24/7 management.

AI was front and centre in all areas. Overall, executives ranked customer satisfaction (77 per cent) and customer retention (70 per cent) as the primary objectives of their AI investments, but each team also has its own priorities.

For sales teams, the top AI applications were sales forecasting and lead generations, at 47 and 44 per cent respectively, followed by lead scoring and data input automation at 33 per cent, and pricing and quoting at 32 per cent.

Marketers, too, are diving in, with 65 per cent using AI for content generation, 64 per cent for website personalization, and 61 per cent for social media monitoring.

“Ultimately, a machine-assisted content strategy takes a lot of the guesswork, time, and effort out of building successful personalized campaigns at scale,” the report noted.

Commerce Cloud customers, 72 per cent of whom use some sort of AI, and 42 per cent of whom have specifically adopted Commerce Cloud Einstein, are planning to scale their AI in several areas. Pricing/promotion optimization is in the plans for 52 per cent, 45 per cent are looking at demand forecasting, and 44 per cent target personalized product assortments.

Said the report, “Implementing AI within digital commerce requires developing a strategy to solve specific challenges and support business and customer needs, with each advancement creating additional value to both.”

Contact centre teams used it for case prioritization and survey and review analytics, both at 32 per cent, followed by knowledge management at 31 per cent. They plan to significantly increase their investment in Salesforce Einstein, its AI tool.

The best IT teams, the report said, are scaling AI in three areas: employee knowledge (70 per cent, vs 59 per cent overall), analytics (65 per cent vs 50 per cent), and machine learning libraries (64 per cent vs 39 per cent).

“This focus on fortifying an organization’s knowledge base is directly influencing future AI investments in natural language processing (NLP), which lets employees search using natural language, and machine learning (ML) to automate employee tasks, surface actionable insights, recommend next best actions, and personalize customer experiences,” indicted the report.

In conclusion, it said, “Technology today is at an inflection point, and exponential technologies like AI, IoT, blockchain, and 5G are signaling a new era of business, where organizations can empower employees to work smarter—anytime, anywhere—with greater intelligence and security.

“In this year’s report, we see the best companies already leading this next wave of internal transformation. They are rapidly deploying Salesforce across their businesses and scaling emerging technologies to empower employees with solutions that transform how they work, sell, market, and serve customers. These are the companies of the future: Cognitive Enterprises.”

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